Call for Papers
“A recent study by McKinsey found that the average life-span of companies listed in Standard & Poor’s 500 was 61 years in 1958. Today, it is less than 18 years. McKinsey believes that, in 2027, 75% of the companies currently quoted on the S&P 500 will have disappeared.” (Garelli, 2016)
It is a unique irony that the modern corporate enterprise, originally designed to exert influence beyond the lifespan of its founders, on average, fails to survive beyond its teen years. In comparison with other enduring institutions – the family, the professions, the Church, monarchies – the corporation has failed miserably in its ability to exert agency over multiple generations. The failure of most modern enterprises to attend to their own long-term survival is symptomatic of a broader societal focus on the short term which emphasizes the interests of the present generation, often at the expense of future generations. Indeed, entrepreneurship research has largely been conducted from within this prevailing short-term paradigm and has, consequently, focused on evanescent forms of “disruptive innovation” often premised on an entrepreneur’s capacity to “move fast and break things” (Taplin, 2017).
Many of the most pressing problems of society – climate change, systemic poverty and inequality, the persistence of colonial economic institutions – the Grand Challenges that we as management scholars are encouraged to address, have emerged out of the failure of contemporary social, political and economic institutions to adopt the intergenerational lens so typically associated with legacy organizations, dynastic family-controlled businesses, long-term communities, or enduring institutions. The loss of an intergenerational worldview is the foundation of what Giddens (1991) and Beck (1992) termed the ‘risk society’ in which we abandon the traditions of past generations and ignore the prospects of future generations in a world increasingly experienced as lacking a sense of community.
This sub-theme challenges the prevailing short-term temporal focus of entrepreneurship research and calls for research relating to the intergenerational transmission of entrepreneurial projects in business and society. While entrepreneurship scholars have devoted considerable energy and attention to understanding transformative action in the short run, they have largely failed to gain any understanding of how entrepreneurial projects are transmitted across generations. Intergenerational entrepreneurial projects may focus, for example, on: the gradual emergence and legitimation of new technologies or market categories, the creation of enduring family legacies, the economic development of regional communities, the pursuit of social or political change, the mitigation of an intractable social or ecological problem, or the realization of cultural or religious aspirations. The underlying defining characteristic of intergenerational entrepreneurial projects is the institutionalization of collective, transformative action across biological, social and/or technological generations. Yet, we lack a theory or a consistent program of empirical research that can explain the fundamental characteristics of such intergenerational transmission of entrepreneurial projects by families, organizations and/or broader communities.
We have much to learn from colleagues outside of management who have devoted considerable effort to understanding various factors of intergenerational transmission. Our specific interest is in understanding the mechanisms and practices, the cultural toolkit, by which transformative, entrepreneurial projects become institutionalized in families, organizations and/or broader communities across multiple generations. We create space for new insights relating to the intergenerational transmission of entrepreneurial projects, drawing inspiration from interdisciplinary work to extend the temporal horizon of entrepreneurship research:
Collective trauma: Toxic historical occurrences (such as colonization practices exerted on indigenous populations) can create trauma that is encoded in common repositories of cultural memory that persist over multiple generations in communities (e.g., Bastien, Foster & Coraiola, 2020). How does intergenerational trauma affect entrepreneurial action?
Nation states: Nation states (as the dominant institutions of modernity) cultivate practices of intergenerational transmission through formal practices of education and memorialization (Anderson, 1983; Bouchard, 2013; Achugar, 2016). How do national mechanisms of transmission shape the entrepreneurial projects in and/or between states?
Storytelling: Intergenerational storytelling is a primary means through which individuals, and families develop a temporally-extended sense of self (e.g., Cruz, Hamilton & Jack, 2021; Fivush, 2011; 2019). How do specific narrative practices extend entrepreneurial identity across generations?
Values and transmission belts: The transmission of cultural values is rarely complete (e.g., Mannheim, 1970). Indeed, exact cultural transmission can prevent novelty, surfacing the need to better understand transmission belts – i.e. the condition and factors that enable transmission of cultural values (Schonpflug, 2001). How are cultural values are maintained and changed in intergenerational entrepreneurial projects?
Societal myths: Stories achieve the status of myth when they are repeated and passed down over time through retellings and adaptation across generations – to ultimately convey the ontological givens of a society (e.g., Slotkin, 1998; Suddaby et al., 2021). How do myths influence how entrepreneurial action is coordinated within a society?
Memorialization: The iaioflautas movement, which emerged in the course of the indignados protests in Spain in 2011, is one of the few social movements that explicitly organize around a “grandparents’ identity. The movement quickly gained worldwide public attention, in large part through their skillful appropriation of the iconic yellow vests as a mode of memorializing their grandparents identity (Schwarz, 2022). We have little or no understanding of the importance of memorialization practices, like the yellow vest, in mobilizing intergenerational social action. How are intergenerational entrepreneurial projects shaped by processes of memorialization?
Folklore: A recent meta-analytic study assessed a massive catalogue of folklore across 958 world societies in an effort to determine the relationship between the stories a society tells and their economic institutions. One of the findings was that “risk-averse and less entrepreneurial people grew up listening to stories where competitions and challenges are more likely to be harmful than beneficial” (Michalopoulos & Xue, 2021: i). What is the role of folklore and other culturally-expressive stories in the cultural transmission of entrepreneurial values?
Community practices: Giddens theorized that the structural or institutional properties of social systems are best understood as practices that are reproduced over time within communities and other social groups – meaning that community practices may be an important mechanism through which collective action becomes “stretched across wide spans of time-space” (Giddens, 1986, p. xxi). Yet we know little about how social practices at the community level may encourage entrepreneurial action, nor what these practices mean for entrepreneurship and the survival of communities. What is the role of community practices in the creation and maintenance of intergenerational entrepreneurial projects?
- Achugar, M. (2016): Discursive Processes of Intergenerational Transmission of Recent History:(Re)Making our Past. Cham: Springer International Publishing.
- Anderson, B. (1983): Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. London: Verso.
- Bastien, F., Foster, W.M., & Coraiola, D.M. (2020): “Don’t talk about history: Indigenous views about the past and their implication for Organization Studies.” In M. Maclean, S.R. Clegg, R. Suddaby, & C. Harvey (eds.): Historical Organization Studies. London: Routledge, 90–103.
- Beck, U. (1992): Risk Society. Towards a New Modernity. London: SAGE Publications.
- Bouchard, G. (ed.) (2013): National Myths: Constructed Pasts, Contested Presents. London: Routledge.
- Discua Cruz, A., Hamilton, E., & Jack, S.L. (2021): “Understanding entrepreneurial opportunities through metaphors: a narrative approach to theorizing family entrepreneurship.” Entrepreneurship & Regional Development, 33 (5–6), 405–426.
- Fivush, R. (2011): “The development of autobiographical memory.” Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 559–582.
- Fivush, R. (2019): Family Narratives and the Development of an Autobiographical Self: Social and Cultural Perspectives on Autobiographical Memory. New York: Routledge.
- Garelli, S. (2016): “Why You Will Probably Live Longer Than Most Big Companies.” IMD, December, 2016; available at: https://www.imd.org/research-knowledge/articles/why-you-will-probably-live-longer-than-most-big-companies/.
- Giddens, A. (1991): Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
- Giddens, A. (1986): The Constitution of Society: Outline of the Theory of Structuration. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
- Mannheim, K. (1970): “The problem of generations.” Psychoanalytic review, 57 (3), 378–404.
- Michalopoulos, S., & Xue, M.M. (2021): “Folklore.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 136 (4), 1993–2046.
- Schönpflug, U. (2001): “Intergenerational transmission of values: The role of transmission belts.” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 32 (2), 174–185.
- Schwarz, C.H. (2022): “Collective memory and intergenerational transmission in social movements: The “grandparents’ movement” iaioflautas, the indignados protests, and the Spanish transition.” Memory Studies, 15 (1), 102–119.
- Slotkin, R. (1998): Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.
- Suddaby, R., Israelsen, T., Mitchell, J.R., & Lim, D.S. (2021): “Entrepreneurial visions as rhetorical history: A diegetic narrative model of stakeholder enrollment.” Academy of Management Review, first published online on July 7, 2021, https://doi.org/10.5465/amr.2020.0010.
- Taplin, J. (2017): Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and What It Means For All of Us. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.